CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - For the first time in fifty years, the Virginia football team will open the season against its biggest rival, as the Cavaliers travel to face Virginia Tech next Saturday.
Last minute schedule changes and cancellations due to COVID-19 forced the Commonwealth Clash to be moved to the beginning of the schedule, and sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong will be making the first start of his career.
“In my mind, I knew if I was going to play after Bryce (Perkins) after two years, I was like, ‘Oh shoot, I’m going to have Georgia,’" says Armstrong. "So that was a big game to start with. When those were canceled, and we went to Virginia Tech, I was like, ‘Well, it’s still another big game.’ I think it’s a little bigger now, because it’s an in-state rivalry, and the first game can set the tone for the whole season.”
After two years of backing up Bryce Perkins, Armstrong held off transfer Keytaon Thompson to win the starting spot.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall says, “There’s a pretty simple mantra I use: ‘Facts are our friends,’ and so the numbers matter to me. We chart everything. I was really impressed with his numbers, and the results, and that led to a body of work that made it clear to me that he was the best player for us at that spot.”
Quarterbacks coach Jason Beck adds, “A lot of it has to do with his experience in the system, his knowledge of everything we do. With that big head start, for being here for two years, it gave him a big leg up, and kept him ahead in the competition.”
Armstrong will be the first ‘Homegrown’ QB to start for the current coaching staff at Virginia, but transfers Kurt Benkert and Bryce Perkins both ended up in the NFL.
Mendenhall says, “It just seems like we end of having a good quarterback every year, and man, are they different.”
“Brennan is unique with his skill set, and his abilities, so there is nobody I’d compare him to that’s similar to him," says Beck. "Even with just being the lefty. It’s the first lefty I’ve coached.”
Armstrong says, “He does a lot of example stuff with his left arm now, so it’s different, but I don’t think it really changes much. My footwork, and the timing is still the same. There’s not a lot changing. Just the way the ball is delivered to the receivers, with the backwards spin.”
No matter how it spins, Armstrong says he’s confident in his ability to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
“I think I’ve become a pretty good passer," says Armstrong, "and I can make any throw on the field, too, so that brings a lot of confidence to myself, and I think the receivers see that too, so it helps, too.”
Virginia will kickoff the 2020 season at Virginia Tech on September 19th.